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Aug 29 2013

Being rushed into bombing Syria

One of the surest signs that the US government is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the public is when they manufacture an artificial sense of urgency. They are like the hucksters selling time shares who try to persuade people that there is a great deal of urgency and that a decision to buy must be made immediately. We saw this kind of pressure in the run up to the Iraq invasion, with ridiculous talk about how we could not afford to wait for evidence in case the ‘smoking gun’ came in the form of a ‘mushroom cloud’. It was inexcusable inflammatory hyperbole and those who made it (Condoleeza Rice and George W. Bush) should have been pilloried but of course they weren’t.

We now have the Obama administration doing the same thing with Syria, saying that we should not wait for the UN investigating team to complete its work but must act now, now, now, though it is never spelled out exactly what the urgency is and no one seems to ask them. In fact, the US seems to be actively seeking to stop the UN probe.

The basic facts (whether chemical weapons were used, what they were, and by whom) are still not established. The administration seems to be hedging its bets a little, with some spokespersons (Susan Rice, Jay Carney) using the passive voice formulation of ‘chemical weapons were used’ to avoid committing themselves as to who might have used them.

But John Bellinger, legal advisor for the State Department and the National Security Council in the George W. Bush administration, says that whatever the facts turn out to be, there is no legal basis under international law for the bombing campaign that the Obama administration is contemplating except with UN approval.

Well, unfortunately there is not a good international law justification. International law does not recognize the right of a state, like the United States, to use force in Syria unless we’re acting in self-defense of ourselves, or unless it’s authorized by the United Nations through a Security Council resolution. So policymakers might decide that it’s the right thing to do, but there’s not a clear international legal basis to do it.

Given the strong opposition by Russia and China to any UN action, the US is unlikely to get UN Security Council approval for a bombing campaign. Even Britain’s David Cameron, anxious to be Obama’s poodle the way Tony Blair was for Bush, is running into domestic opposition to rushing the UK into military action. But when have legal niceties stopped rogue nations like the US and UK from doing what they damn well please? The British government has already said that its own attorney general (now there’s an impartial source!) has judged that an attack would be legal even without UN approval.

Even Donald Rumsfeld (Donald Rumsfeld!), another person who should be tried as a war criminal and who famously lied that he knew for a fact that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that “We know where they are. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.” (i.e., somewhere on the planet) says that he doesn’t think Obama has justified an attack on Syria. If you can’t persuade Rumsfeld to go to war, your case is weak indeed.

Obama says that he hasn’t yet decided on whether to attack Syria but he himself has built up such momentum for it that he now risks ‘losing his credibility’ if he does not ‘punish’ Syria in some way. The usual set of neoconservative warmongers and others are using his ‘red line’ rhetoric to goad him into bombing.

Our politics have sunk to a level where the (non-existent) credibility of the American president takes precedence over the victims of his actions or international law.

12 comments

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  1. 1
    unbound

    Raytheon’s stock has climbed up quite a bit in the past couple of months. Probably the best indication that we’ll be dropping bombs and missiles no matter what the public wants.

  2. 2
    doublereed

    But isn’t there actual urgency considering the Syria is in a state of civil war? People dying and stuff?

    Of course, I’m completely confused on what exactly we plan to do. Are we trying to stop the civil war? Take down the government? Destroy/disable chemical weapons? I don’t see how our involvement could possibly help considering it just sounds like a massive clusterfuck. If someone wants to educate me, feel free.

  3. 3
    tiberiusbeauregard

    @doublereed

    There is no plan.
    The ango-american war machinery will be employed just to get rid off Al-Assad and his secular state in order to divide the country into smaller zones, which will be easier to control in the future.

    And it’s absolutely safe to say that any sort of “intervention” (aka war of agression) will cost a LOT more lifes than anything Al-Assad allegedly did (needless to say there is no proof that his side used chemical weaponry and it’s much more likely that it was used by the well-equipped (backed by saudi/bahrain) islamists who will do anything to make a califate out of Syria).

    Syria will be the next clusterf*cked middle east region that was destroyed by the USA and its “allies”.

    This time, it’s as obvious as never before why an american government trumpets for war and that’s what’s going to created MILLIONS of new enemies of the US.

  4. 4
    Marcus Ranum

    But isn’t there actual urgency considering the Syria is in a state of civil war? People dying and stuff?

    We’ve successfully ignored that for, what, a year?

    Nationalism – the idea that the people born within some arbitrary lines on a map, belong to that government – is a crime.

  5. 5
    Reginald Selkirk

    There won’t be a rush. Obama will pause first to polish his Nobel peace prize medal.

  6. 6
    Chiroptera

    But isn’t there actual urgency considering the Syria is in a state of civil war? People dying and stuff?

    And the solution is to make more people die?

    Horrible things happen all the time, and sure, we all want to do something to stop it. But the point is to make sure that what you do will make things better and not worse. Too many people want (or allow the war criminals to convince us to want) to jump in to do something, anything, just to make ourselves feel better.

  7. 7
    colnago80

    Syria is already effectively destroyed as a united country. As we sit here today, it is currently divided between the Alawites, the Sunnis, and the Kurds, with each controlling a part of the country. At this point, unless there is a massive intervention by ground troops, I don’t see how it can be reunited. The problem is that all of the “countries” in the Middle East, at least east of the Sinai Desert, were cobbled together by Britain and France after WW 1 in order to reward various warlords for allowing them to exploit the oil resources.

  8. 8
    colnago80

    Actually, the only strategy that makes an ounce of sense here is to give Assad and him minions the bump, if they can be found. Removing them might have the effect of causing the contending parties to come to their senses and reach some agreement to end the fighting. Even if somehow Assad is deterred from further use of chemical weapons, he was doing quite alright with conventional weapons before. The only advantage of chemical weapons is that they kill people without destroying infrastructure, which might be what he had in mind.

  9. 9
    Doug Little

    That thing is rusting in the bottom of an intern’s desk somewhere.

  10. 10
    rdmcpeek43

    And the Norwegian Nobel Committee definitely rushed into awarding Obama the peace prize and it was questionable as to him deserving it , at all.

  11. 11
    machintelligence

    I like the idea of dropping the mess into the laps of the congress. Ask them what they will approve in the way of a military response and sit back. It will take them a long time, maybe forever, to come to an agreement.

  12. 12
    AsqJames

    The British government has already said that its own attorney general (now there’s an impartial source!) has judged that an attack would be legal even without UN approval.

    Weird, that’s just what they said about Iraq in 2003. And then it turned out the AG only came to that conclusion after it became apparent that UN backing would not be forthcoming.

    From the Guardian:

    Elizabeth Wilmshurst, former deputy legal adviser at the Foreign Office, revealed that Goldsmith initially sent a “provisional” view to Tony Blair in January 2003 that a second UN resolution would be required for the invasion to be legal.

    But by 7 March the position of Goldsmith, who gives evidence to the inquiry tomorrow, was that there was a reasonable case for arguing the war would be legal without a second resolution. Then by 17 March, just days before the war, he said there was no need for a second resolution.

    Goldsmith was the Attorney General at the time. Wilmshurst was a lawyer in the Foreign Office (US equiv.: State Dept.) and the only civil servant to resign over the Iraq war (Robin Cook resigned from his job as a government minister).

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